RECAP 26: Opportunistic Pens take care of business in 5-2 victory over struggling Sabres

RECAP 26: Opportunistic Pens take care of business in 5-2 victory over struggling Sabres

Penguins

RECAP 26: Opportunistic Pens take care of business in 5-2 victory over struggling Sabres

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BUFFALO, NY – MARCH 11: Sidney Crosby #87 and his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates celebrate a goal by Jake Guentzel #59 (not pictured) during an NHL game against the Buffalo Sabres on March 11, 2021 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Penguins have 16 games remaining against the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils, the basement dwellers of the East division. Right in the thick of the playoff race, they have a giant opportunity to solidify their playoff chances.

The Sabres went without their star captain, Jack Eichel, who is out with a neck injury.

All situations, shot attempts were 46-43 for Pittsburgh, but scoring chances were 19-14 in favor of Buffalo. Evolving Hockey gives the Sabres a slim 1.68-1.55 edge in expected goals.

LINEUP

Chad Ruhwedel is in for John Marino.

Marino missed practice yesterday, but it was dubbed a maintenance day by Mike Sullivan. If he is injured, I wouldn’t expect it to be anything substantial.

Tristan Jarry gets the nod in goal.

1st period

PIT GOAL – Malkin (7) A: Kapanen [6:27] 1-0 PIT

On-ice shooting percentage regression be damned! Evgeni Malkin and Kasperi Kapanen are en fuego right now as the duo teamed up to get the Penguins on the board for the game’s first goal.

Kapanen made a great read to intercept a D-to-D pass and spring himself for a breakaway. After getting Sabres goalie Jonas Johansson to commit, Kapanen made a slick drop pass to Malkin who buried the puck into a wide-open net.

BUF GOAL – Thompson (1) A: Okposo, Eakin [6:54] 1-1

The Penguins’ lead didn’t last long as Tage Thompson’s wrap-around beat Jarry to tie the game less than 30 seconds later.

Thompson’s long reach allowed him to corral the puck away from Crosby as he took it below the goal line. Brian Dumoulin made a mistake by chasing him behind the net, but ultimately Jarry needs to come up with the save.

These are not the three players the Penguins want to see pop up on the scoresheet for Buffalo.

2nd period

PIT GOAL – Tanev (6) A: Blueger, Matheson [3:24] 2-1 PIT

I am extremely critical of Brandon Tanev but I absolutely love him, especially when he’s doing this.

Credit to him for the backhand shot as he realized a defender was about to seal him off. Props to Teddy Blueger as well, who made a great breakout pass to set him free. Their line with Zach Aston-Reese is outscoring opponents 6-0 at 5v5 this season.

BUF GOAL – Olofsson (8) A: Sheahan, Staal [8:46] 2-2

Geoff sums this one up perfectly. Tie game.

This was Olofsson’s eighth goal of the season but his first at 5v5.

PIT PP GOAL – Guentzel (9) A: Crosby, Malkin [11:36] 3-2 PIT

The Penguins took the lead back minutes later on a snipe from Jake Guentzel on the powerplay.

Guentzel picked his spot on the far side after Crosby set him up from behind the net. Solid puck movement from the top unit on this one.

3rd period

PIT GOAL – Angello (1) Unassisted [2:43] 4-2 PIT

The Penguins padded their lead on a blistering wrister from Anthony Angello for his first goal of the season, and the second of his career (15th game).

This game was his best showing in the NHL thus far. More on him in a minute.

PIT EN GOAL – Rust (9) A: Jarry [18:45] 5-2 PIT

Tristan Jarry’s attempt to score on the empty net went wide, but Bryan Rust was there to clean it up and seal the deal.

That’s Jarry’s third assist of the season, who now has more points than Sabres winger Jeff Skinner. How’s that for $9 million a season?

FINAL: 5-2 PIT

Notes

  • The Sceviour-Jankowski-Angello trio was phenomenal, turning in a rare solid performance. They were matched against weak Buffalo depth players, but if they can’t play well against them, they never will. I’m not convinced Angello is a full-time NHL player, but I am intrigued.

  • The Crosby line was rather mediocre tonight. At 5v5 they controlled 50% of the shot attempts but didn’t generate many dangerous chances.
  • Ruhwedel was steady in his return to the lineup. He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and 5 against at 5v5. He threw the body around, too, including a thundering hit on Taylor Hall. He’s nothing more than a third-pairing option but he has been extremely reliable in that role this season.
  • The Sabres have been a pretty low-event team this season, so it might be a challenge to create a lot of dangerous looks. The Penguins will have to be opportunistic, and they were tonight.

We’re doing it again Saturday night. Same teams, same time, same place. LGP.

Thanks for reading! Let’s talk hockey on Twitter. Follow me @shireyirving.

All data via Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey

Shot chart via Evolving Hockey

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